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Restaurant Hood Filters: Do You Know What To Buy?

By Greg McGuire

Maintaining and replacing the hood filter in your commercial ventilation system is more important than you might think. The hood filter is a metal square or rectangle that fits into the opening on your hood ventilation system. Its purpose is to filter out grease from the smoke rising off your cooking equipment. If this smoke were left unfiltered, it would build up over time in the ventilation system and become a major fire risk.

Therefore maintaining and replacing these filters is an important task. Some things you should know about commercial hood filters:

Types of Hood Filters

Unless your cooking equipment is burning mesquite or some other sort of solid fuel, your hood ventilation system is using a baffle filter. Baffle filters are most commonly made out of one of three types of metal:

  • Galvanized - these filters are the least expensive option. They are rarely used in open kitchens where customers can see them because they have a dull appearance
  • Aluminum - these hood filters have an appealing sheen to them, making them usable in open kitchens, but they are prone to corrosion after repeated cleanings
  • Stainless Steel - these filters are by far the most durable. They are also appealing to look at and can be used in an open kitchen. They are less prone to corrosion than aluminum as long as they are not cleaned using bleach or other chemicals

Cleaning Your Hood Filter

Hood filters should be cleaned every day to keep them free of grease and maximize their filtering capability. If you have a high temp dishwasher, run your hood filters through the dishwasher. Make sure you don't use any bleach when you clean hood filters as this will cause rapid corrosion!

If your dishwasher uses any kind of chemical, do not use it to clean hood filters. Instead, clean the grease out of your hood filters with hot soapy water and dry them immediately after.

If grease is allowed to build up in hood filters, the risk of fire in your kitchen becomes very high. The more packed with grease filters become, the less they filter from the smoke passing through your ventilation system. That means the unfiltered grease ends up in the ducting, and if enough builds up, it could catch fire, potentially causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

When To Replace Your Hood Filter

Conduct regular visual inspections of your hood filters. If corrosion, dents, or wear has created holes or disfiguration of the baffles, then it's time to replace them. It's important to replace worn hood filters as quickly as possible. Otherwise, grease will build up in the ducting of your ventilation system, and this can pose a very serious fire risk.

Sizing And Replacing Your Hood Filter

Properly sizing your hood filter is the most important thing you'll do before ordering a new one. Hood filters are typically sized inch smaller in vertical and horizontal dimensions than the nominal sizes listed for your hood ventilation system. In other words, if the hood opening is 20" x 20", the correct sized hood filter for that system is 19 " tall by 19 " wide.

To determine the vertical height of the filter, measure parallel to the baffles from edge to edge. The horizontal width is the distance from edge to edge perpendicular to the direction of the baffles.

To replace your hood filter, lift the old filter out of the slot rail in which it rests and slide it out. Slide the new filter all the way into the slot opening and then drop the end into the rail. Make sure you insert the hood filter with the baffles in a vertical position! This means the lines in the filter are running up and down and not side to side. Installing hood filters the wrong way means the grease will not drain properly and cause clogging.

Greg McGuire is a regular contributor to The Back Burner, a restaurant news, trends, and marketing blog. He also works for, a company specializing in restaurant equipment, supplies, and equipment parts.

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